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20 • SEPTEMBER 2017

www.desertexposure.com

PUBLISHER’S NOTEBOOK • RICHARD COLTHARP

Resolana Resonates

Finding a place in the sun (or shade) can lead to good things esolana” is one of the more beautiful words in the Spanish

“R

language. Its literal translation means “suntrap,” a place that collects the light, heat and glare of the sun. However, in northern New Mexico culture, the word evolved with a broader, deeper, more complex meaning. If you’ve spent much time in New Mexico, you know a rule of thumb understood by a few wise elder people and even the dumbest dogs. If you’re hot, stand in the shade; if you’re cold, stand in the sun. The rule varies, of course, depending on the time of year and the region of the state. In northern New Mexico, the bite of winter can be present even in early fall or late spring. Those are the times resolana is found on a bright, sunny bench in the park, when two old friends

run into each other and sit down to catch up. In southern New Mexico, the sting of summer can hang around until late fall, or show up occasionally even in February. Those are the times when resolana is found under a shady canopy, when a group of workers share a lunch break. In either case, the resolana often progresses from a way to beat the weather into an opportunity for human connection and sharing stories and ideas. There’s another term for what comes out of those conversations: el oro del barrio. Literally, that translates to “the gold of the neighborhood,” but it really means the collective wisdom of the community. My grandmother Boonie lived most of her life in Fort Worth, Texas, where, thanks to the humidity, shade offered little relief from the summer heat. So instead, she’d have folks to her home for coffee and domi-

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noes, and they would proceed to “solve the world’s problems.” While those discussions seldom materialized into anything tangibly, they went a long way toward cementing friendships. Nothing wrong with that. In a 2009 book called “Resolana: Emerging Chicano Dialogues on Community and Globalization,” the authors view in resolana the possibility for true grass roots motivation, inspiration and action. Nothing wrong with that, either. It seems to me, in all these examples, on many levels, there is power in resolana. However, it also seems to me our society has found myriad ways to unintentionally reduce and eliminate opportunities for resolana. One obvious usurper is technology, particularly smart phones and social media. Many of us will stumble right over opportunities for resolana because our head is buried in the iPhone. Resolana also suffers at the hands of architecture. With so many chain stores and restaurants, buildings are built to corporate specs rather than to fit into a local community’s environment. Seldom, I would guess, are a building’s directions and sun and shade patterns considered. Building-front spaces that once may have had seating areas are now occupied by required automobile parking spaces and, in some cases, even bicycle racks. Perhaps the biggest culprit is our own lifestyles. We are so overly busy with critical tasks – or at least we perceive ourselves to be – we can’t take time to shoot the breeze, even if those often evolve into times we treasure most if we let them. Yet, as a flower emerges from a crack in a sidewalk, resolana can find its way. Consider four geographically separated family members who now share regular communications via a group text. Or, in the seemingly sterile, corporate environment of a Walmart, you’ll see friends sharing a real conversation over their shopping carts.

Dogs, such as this one at Taos Pueblo, often demonstrate more wisdom than people, as in finding resolana. (Photo by Richard Coltharp)

At this writing, I am reflecting, sorrowfully, on the troubling events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Emotions and actions escalated in a vacuum of resolana. At multiple points in the progression, cooler heads might have prevailed, given the opportunity to have real discussions. Unfortunately, firmly staked positions fueled by group-think and social media can churn anger in even the most rational people. A few years ago, my daughter asked me about the term “keep your chin up.” I said it meant forging through difficult situations with a positive attitude. Then, for grins, we tried literally keeping our chins up. We realized it makes you smile. Not quite as automatically as going for a skip, but we found keeping your chin up to have literal as well as metaphorical

benefits. In New Mexico, keeping your head up also enables you to see our amazing skies. Looking at those blue and often multi-colored skies, along with amazing clouds, mountains and stars, reminds us of things greater than ourselves. Sharing those greater things with others can genuinely make a difference. Take a breath, pause, and look for some resolana. Seek and you shall find. Richard Coltharp is publisher of Desert Exposure and the Las Cruces Bulletin. More than once, he has found resolana at a New Mexico post office. He can be reached at richard@lascrucesbulletin. com.

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